Theology and Social Theory: Reevaluating Bonhoeffer's Approach

Michael Mawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article reevaluates the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s widely criticized engagement with social theory in his doctoral dissertation Sanctorum Communio. On the one hand, it argues that there are specific theological concerns underlying Bonhoeffer’s initial decisions with respect to social theory, in ways that have not been sufficiently recognized. This is the case for both Bonhoeffer’s distinction between social philosophy and sociology and his related preference for formal (rather than historical) approaches to sociology. On the other hand, this article insists that Bonhoeffer did not simply draw or rely upon formal approaches to sociology uncritically. Rather, he carefully took up and reworked concepts and insights from social theory on the basis of a properly theological dialectic of creation, sin, and reconciliation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-80
Number of pages12
JournalTheology Today
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • Bonhoeffer
  • social theory
  • ecclesiology
  • Luther
  • sanctorum communio


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